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Your Words - We tell it like it is! Holiday Reviews by previous Exodus travellers  

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  • Reviewed October 2019

    A varied tour of beautiful buildings and scenery.

    A very busy, varied tour. Most of the hotels were of a good standard with one or two not so good. The Hotel Asia Mountains 1 has been mentioned in a review already - take ear plugs so that you drown out the trains.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The beautiful mosques and madrassas in Uzbekistan and the stunning scenery in Kyrgyzstan, the golden eagle demonstration, Issyk Kul lake and the boat ride. The two 'family' meals were absolutely outstanding with delicious food and LOTS of it.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Both leaders were excellent in different ways. Takhir Sadullaev in Uzbekistan has many years experience as a tour guide and was very informative with a sense of humour. He was most conscientious about 'guarding' our belongings on the sleeper train when we went to the restaurant car. Aziz Umetaliev who joined us in Kazakhstan and guided us in Kyrgyzstan was also knowledgeable (with one or two gaps in his knowledge) but made up for it with his very likeable personality. Aziz and Uri (not the right spelling) our driver decorated the bus with balloons for the first travellers birthday and left them up for my birthday a few days later. Uri was a very careful, helpful and friendly driver even though he had very limited English.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be patient in restaurants as the service can be slow and erratic with (for example) rice to accompany a meal coming out a long time before the main dish and wine being served when some people had already eaten their meal. Meals tend to come in dribs and drabs again with some people having finished as others were just being served. As this was the last trip this year places had run down their stocks and often we couldn't get the wine or drinks that we wanted. Take a torch for the yurt and something warm to wear as it was cold in the morning. I found the trip notes a bit confusing about which currency to take, you only need to take US dollars. Both guides advised how much to change as we arrived in a new country which was very helpful.
  • Reviewed September 2019
    John Chapman

    A couple of tips

    Previous reviews have covered most things and are worth reading.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    See above.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    See above.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If you are buying drinks for the yurt take the opportunity to buy them for the homestay meal at the same time, alternatively turn right on leaving the Green Yard hotel and in 300yds there is a small shop. I would also advise buying drinks at the supermarket to take to the lakeside resort.
  • Reviewed September 2019
    Peter Stocker

    Marvellous Islamic architecture.

    The visits to Samarkand and Bukhara were the principal things I wanted to see apart from Khiva which I did on my own before the main trip. Exodus booked the flights for me and I booked the hotel in Khiva myself.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I would have to say Khiva although it was not part of the standard trip. I also particularly enjoyed Samarkand, Bukhara and the overnight stay in the yurt camp amidst beautiful Alpine scenery.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We had two leaders, the one for Uzbekistan was very experienced and everything was very efficient. The guide for Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan was less experienced but coped well.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Unless Exodus decide to include it, spend a couple of nights in Khiva first, it's very compact and traffic free and there is a lot to see. You don't need a guide just a guide book.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I think it would be far better to omit Kazakhstan altogether as there is very little to see that is worth travelling so far to see. The time saved could better be spent going to Khiva. So I would say go to Uzbekistan for the architectural interest and Kyrgyzstan for the scenery.
  • Reviewed September 2019
    Deborah Evans

    Amazing, Extensive, Exhausting Trip

    If you want to see classic Silk Road architecture then go to Uzbekistan. If you want to see amazing mountain scenery then go to Kyrgyzstan. If you want to see both of the above plus three other countries in Central Asia, whilst experiencing a wide range of 'best of' activites plus a few off the beaten track sights, all crammed into three hectic weeks, then the Five Stans trip is the one for you. My expectations were high, but this trip surpassed them.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I can't pick one, here are a selection of things that blew me away: Surreal Ashgabat. Beautiful Bukhara. Samarkand. Obviously. The night sky (and entire yurt experience) at Son Kul lake

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Suzie Grant is a one woman whirlwind. She held our great group together, looked after us all, kept our spirits up and used her natural curiousity to help make it the best trip possible for us. It was a privilege to travel with her.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Bear in mind that the itinerary is very 'full on' and, although I consider myself to be relatively fit, I was quite tired by the end of the trip. That said, I am grateful for the opportunity to do so much in such a short period of time.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Just go.
  • Reviewed August 2019
    Rouna Ali

    Rouna's Silk Road

    This is a truly spectacular once in a lifetime trip which I will never forget. I would never have been able to travel to such and so many places in the time available if it weren't for Exodus. The contrast between the three 'Stans' Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan is infinitely fascinating. The hot deserts, magnificent Muslim architecture, Madrashahs, Mausoleums, Markets and magnanimous hearts of the people of Uzbekistan to the epic mountains, rivers, lakes, forests and awesome pride and grace of the people of Kyrgyzstan (especially the Eagle Hunters which is only one of many highlights on this trip).

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    1. Registan Square in Samarkand in my view is more beautiful and epic than the Taj Mahal. 2. During the Eagle hunting demonstration in Kyrgyzstan I almost cried as the eagle flew above and swooped down in front of me to catch the coyote skin!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Both group leaders (one for Uzbekistan) and (one for Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan) did their very best for us and Ali bent over backwards to help me in Bukhara when I had a bout of 'Bukhara belly' :0

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    You might laugh but I regret not taking small bottles of salt and pepper and chilli sauce with me because the food will cause you problems. Take plenty of Immodium and Dioralyte. In Uzbekistan especially they try to put on the menu what Westerners will like and I did not like it at all. Sometimes the food ingredients were really old, not cooked properly or under hygienic conditions and tasted extremely bland. It can take forever to sort out the bill if you eat in a large group. Before you travel I would look at the trip notes and where the hotels are then do your own pre-trip research using google maps and trip advisor to see where all the good restaurants are near to these hotels.
  • Reviewed August 2019
    Jill Haydock

    Go and experience Uzbekistan

    An amazing trip if you’re interested in Early to modern civilisation, beautiful architecture and a country rediscovering its heritage and crafts. The people are very welcoming, dress code is relaxed and beer or wine is always an option at mealtimes. It’s a country worth seeing now.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The unexpected ‘wild swim’ in the lake and visiting the beautiful Shah-I-Zinda on the day families were celebrating Eid are both magical memories.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Absolutely fantastic! Dilshod’s knowledge of ancient and modern history, the architecture, crafts and culture in each city was phenomenal; and his willingness to share his own stories of recent history put this trip right up with the best.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If you have a problem with pillows try and take your own travel pillow!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I would have the yurt stay a little more remote from parked cars, coaches and motorbikes! I was woken by a motorbike starting up!
  • Reviewed August 2019
    Susi Quinn

    A long and varied road

    This amazing trip was like several holidays rolled into one. From the surreal weirdness of Ashghabat and Darvaza, through ancient archaeological sites to the stunning monuments in Bukhara and Samarkand, through the desert to the Afghan border then up into beautiful mountains, lakes, rivers and nomad camps, before descending back down to the modern post-Soviet cities… every day there was something new and wonderful to see.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    So many! Ashghabat set us up with three weeks' worth of jokes; we all fell instantly in love with Bukhara; the necropolis in Samarkand was an unexpected delight; the drive into the Fann Mountains was a welcome return to awesome scenery, and the whole of Kyrgyzstan was jaw-droppingly beautiful, especially the ever-changing colours of Son Kul lake and the brilliant stars on a clear night.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our fantastic tour leader Ale(jandro) was a major reason for the success of the trip - always on hand to organise things or deal with any issues, endlessly cheerful and calm, and full of entertaining stories about his previous trips. The local guides sometimes varied in quality, but the best ones were truly stellar - Bek in Uzbekistan and Valentina in Kyrgyzstan in particular were excellent.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The Tajik visa is valid for about 45 days, so allow a few days' leeway at the start rather than trying to calculate your exact entry date (a few people got this wrong and had to get new visas over dodgy Turkmen internet). The Turkmen LOI can arrive very late, not the "month in advance" suggested in the trip notes, but nobody got rejected. Take plenty of rehydration salts even if you have bowels of steel - nearly everyone had some troubles, and the salts are also good if you're sweating buckets (which will definitely happen at 46 degrees!). Learn some Russian if you can, it's spoken almost everywhere, and will help you understand the bill at restaurants. The transfer window at Istanbul Airport on the way home is very tight - do whatever it takes to speed things up, whether going through the VIP security check or hitching a ride with a motorised wheelchair (have some $$ ready to tip the driver), as you may have over a mile to run to make it before boarding closes - we all made it, but only just.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Make sure you have plenty of room on your camera memory card!
  • Reviewed July 2019
    John Atherton

    Silk Road cities and sublime scenery

    Cities tend not to be high on my list of places to visit but I was surprised by the many parks and green spaces offsetting the large buildings and wide roads in all the cities visited. Of course the amazing architecture of the mosques, madrassas, minarets, mausoleums, museums and markets were impressive and interesting – with a wealth of information from both our tour leaders and local guides, all of whom spoke excellent English. The train journeys and the brief ride on the Metro in Tashkent made pleasant changes to the coach travel. Good to see family groups enjoying the warm evenings in pedestrianised streets and squares, parks, local cafes and bars, etc. No litter, no noisy groups of youths, just a nice atmosphere. Though the planned overnight train ride to Kazakhstan didn’t happen owing to international cancellation at little notice, the replacement coach was large and comfortable. In the morning traffic to Almaty many more upmarket cars were on the roads, after very few in Uzbekistan. The short drive out of Almaty with the walk up to the waterfall was a welcome change from the city streets. Then the long drive into the Kyrgyzstan countryside was literally a breath of fresh air; with the vast lake, snow-capped mountains, rushing rivers, flower-strewn meadows and leisurely walks. Not forgetting the impressive golden eagle demonstration. I would have preferred more than one night at the Yurt shores of Lake Camp. A couple of days later, an afternoon swim at the “seaside” on the Issyk Kul Lake was refreshing. Inevitable long road journeys were offset by ever changing views, excellent driving, mainly good roads and frequent stops.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The Kyrgyzstan countryside and the happy atmosphere in the city pedestrian areas throughout.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Both Dillshod and Ermek were excellent, knowledgeable and considerate. Different personalities, Dillshod the more experienced.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Drink the local draught beer - it's good and inexpensive. Lots of religious buildings so long trousers/skirt and covered shoulders often expected. Most public conveniences incur a small cost for women and for men, be aware of your currency note value!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    All hotels were clean and comfortable (with good quality loo paper)!
  • Reviewed July 2019
    Sabina Latif

    Minarets, mosques, mausoleums to mountains

    This was a fantastic trip with a real mix of architecture, landscapes and cultures. Lovely tour guides and drivers to help and support. I was astonished by the sheer scale and intricacies of the buildings in Uzbekistan which contrasted with the beautiful snow capped mountains in Kyrgyzstan. My personal highlights were the overnight train and yurt camp experience!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing the sheer scale and stamina of the mosques, mausoleums and madrassahs in Uzbekistan including Registan Square.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We had 2 group leaders, one for Uzbekistan (Dilshod) and another for Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (Ermeg). Both were great but in different ways. Dilshod was warm and kind and made us laugh, he was very knowledgeable. He did however give us too much information and it would be better if he slowed down and gave bite size chunks. Ermeg was so open and honest with us and shared his knowledge with us at a really good pace with the right amount of info.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    It is very hot in certain towns in June and July!... there are two hotels with pools so pack your swimming costume... you will need a torch for the yurt camp... take Tupperware or food bags as we have a lot of picnic lunches and most of the hotel breakfasts were really good buffets!
  • Reviewed July 2019
    Sarah Eddington

    Leave the West Behind

    If you want to leave the west behind until the last city on this incredible journey, then welcome to the former Soviet States that make up the silk road. This trip has everything, religion, wildlife, nomad living and amazing countryside and mountains. Forget McDonalds and Burger King, at times you won't even get social media!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    staying in a Yurt high in the mountains, seeing the nomad people living their lives as they have done for 1000's of years

    What did you think of your group leader?

    our group leader was good, and the local guides and drivers were exceptional

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do not expect western standards, the food is basic at times as are the toilet and shower facilities. There are no home comforts which is what makes this trip what it is. Do not go expecting to get Wifi and social media, it isn't going to happen at times
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